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Hi Blog. Multiethnic tennis star Osaka Naomi, whom we’ve talked about on Debito.org before in the context of Japan’s “Nippon Claiming” (where a mudblood is “claimed” to be a “Japanese”, full stop, as long as she’s at the top of her game; otherwise her mixed-ethnicity becomes a millstone), has now been claimed to the point of “whitewashing”. Yes, her Haitian-American heritage has been washed away in the Japanese media. By one of her main sponsors, no less. And they did it without clearing it with her first.
Witness these articles, sent in by many people (h/t to JK in particular):
Ad Showing Naomi Osaka With Light Skin Prompts Backlash and an Apology
The New York Times, Jan 22, 2019
Naomi Osaka, the half-Haitian, half-Japanese tennis champion, is the star of a new Japanese anime-style advertisement.
The problem? The cartoon Ms. Osaka bears little resemblance to her real, biracial self.
Her skin was unmistakably lightened, and her hair style changed — a depiction that has prompted criticism in Japan, where she has challenged a longstanding sense of cultural and racial homogeneity.
The ad — unveiled this month by Nissin, one of the world’s largest instant-noodle brands — features Ms. Osaka and Kei Nishikori, Japan’s top-ranked male tennis player, in a cartoon drawn by Takeshi Konomi, a well-known manga artist whose series “The Prince of Tennis” is popular in Japan.
Mr. Konomi and Ms. Osaka, who faces Elina Svitolina in an Australian Open quarterfinal match on Wednesday, have not publicly commented on the reactions to the ad.
But a Nissin spokesman apologized in an email on Tuesday for “the confusion and discomfort.”
The spokesman, Daisuke Okabayashi, said that the characters had been developed in line with Mr. Konomi’s anime series and that the company had communicated with Ms. Osaka’s representatives.
“There is no intention of whitewashing,” he said. “We accept that we are not sensitive enough and will pay more attention to diversity issue in the future.”
After the ad was first published online, people on social media, including many fans of Ms. Osaka’s, said they were deeply disappointed.
Baye McNeil, an author who has lived in Japan for 15 years, said he didn’t understand why the ad would “erase her black features and project this image of pretty much the prototypical anime girl-next-door character.”
Ms. Osaka’s rise into a beloved national figure has been particularly exciting for biracial people in Japan, known as hafus, who have long battled for acceptance, he said.
Ranked fourth in the world at just 21, she’s already among Japan’s most accomplished tennis players ever. She became the first Japanese-born tennis player to win a Grand Slam singles championship in September when she defeated Serena Williams in the U.S. Open, a victory that supercharged her celebrity ascent.
That win prompted a cartoon in an Australian newspaper that was criticized for its depiction of Ms. Williams, which many saw as a racist caricature. While most of the condemnation focused on how the Australian cartoonist drew Ms. Williams, critics also noted that Ms. Osaka was depicted with blond hair and light skin.
Black characters aren’t frequently found in anime, but artists in the medium have successfully depicted their skin tones before.
“When there is a black character, it’s clearly a black character,” Mr. McNeil said.
The discussion of biracial identity in Japan got a boost in 2015 when Ariana Miyamoto, who is half-Japanese, half-African-American, won the Miss Universe Japan pageant. She used her fame to discuss the plight of “hafus,” but some in Japan were unwilling to accept her as a model of Japanese beauty.
In interviews, Ms. Osaka has embraced her multicultural background.
“Maybe it’s because they can’t really pinpoint what I am,” she said in 2016, “so it’s like anybody can cheer for me.”
Baye, mentioned above, commented as follows:
Someone lost their noodle making this new Nissin ad featuring Naomi Osaka
BY BAYE MCNEIL
The Japan Times, JAN 19, 2019
This month, cup noodle maker Nissin served up its animated “Hungry to win” ad campaign, drawn by “Prince of Tennis” artist Takeshi Konomi and featuring actual tennis prince Kei Nishikori and our newest bona fide global star, Naomi Osaka.
I’d been anticipating Osaka’s appearance since it isn’t often that a high-profile woman of color is featured in a major Japanese ad campaign. So when I cued it up on YouTube I was truly disappointed to see that there was no woman of color to speak of in the commercial. Instead, I found a white-washed representation of Osaka that could’ve easily been based off a TV personality like Becky or Rola. Everything that distinguishes Osaka from your typical Japanese anime character was gone, and what was left? Your typical Japanese anime character.
Come on, Nissin. Was this a business decision? Did you have concerns that your customers might be forced to uncomfortably ponder issues of race or ethnicity while slurping down a bowl of U.F.O. Yakisoba?
Sure, anime fans aren’t used to seeing women of color in the genre so … a few shades lighter on the skin here … a debroadening of the nose there … the de-exoticization of her hair … and, voila! The perfectly palatable girl next door. Not for this fan, though. Osaka’s de-blackening is as problematic to me as a Bobby Riggs tirade against female tennis players…
Rest at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2019/01/19/our-lives/someone-lost-noodle-making-new-nissin-ad-featuring-naomi-osaka/
Nissin apologizes for skin color of Osaka in ad
The Japan News/Jiji Press January 23, 2019
NEW YORK (Jiji Press) — Nissin Food Products Co. has apologized in an email for depicting the skin color of tennis player Naomi Osaka in an anime-style advertisement as lighter than her actual pigmentation, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
The online edition of the U.S. newspaper said that the ad depicting Osaka, born to a Haitian-American father and a Japanese mother, has been criticized in Japan for whitewashing.
“We accept that we are not sensitive enough,” a spokesman for the Nissin Foods Holdings Co. unit was quoted as saying.
The Osaka character used in the anime ad for the company’s Cup Noodles was designed by manga artist Takeshi Konomi, known for his comic series “The Prince of Tennis.”
The ad also features Japanese tennis player Kei Nishikori, who, like Osaka, is sponsored by Nissin.
The New York Times reported that the Osaka figure depicted in the ad “bears little resemblance to her real, biracial self,” adding, “Her skin was unmistakably lightened.”
Sponsor of Naomi Osaka retracts ad videos over skin color dispute
January 24, 2019 (Mainichi Japan)
TOKYO (Kyodo) — A Japanese food company which is a sponsor of 2018 U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka removed video advertisements from YouTube on Wednesday following a dispute over the skin color of a character featuring the tennis star.
Nissin Foods Holdings Co. created two pieces of animated video aimed at promoting its signature product Cup Noodle featuring characters of Osaka as well as Kei Nishikori, another Japanese tennis player the Tokyo company supports.
But Nissin chose to stop running them at the request of Osaka’s management agency in the United States following controversy in which some questioned Nissin’s creations, saying the color of Osaka’s character was lightened.
Nissin denied it had intended to make the skin color white and apologized for having caused confusion.
“We will be more mindful of the issue of diversity,” an official of the company said.
The dispute emerged as Osaka, a U.S.-based 21-year-old athlete whose father is Haitian and mother is Japanese, advanced to the semifinals of the Australian Open.
According to the official, Nissin consulted with the Japanese arm of Osaka’s agency in making the anime pieces but failed to communicate properly with its U.S. parent.
COMMENT: And, as the Guardian reported from an interview with Osaka:
Osaka: “I don’t think they did it on purpose to be, like, whitewashing or anything, but I definitely think that the next time they try to portray me or something, I feel like they should talk to me about it.”
Not on purpose? Really? This was what I was alluding to back in my Japan Times column on this last year:
It is a well-established phenomenon that Japanese children overseas, if absent from Japanese primary or secondary schooling for even a short time, can face ethnic and cultural displacement when they return. There’s even a special word — kikoku-shijo — for “repatriated children.” And this crisis of identity happens even to native Japanese speakers.
Osaka is not. Nikkan Sports on Sept. 10 reported her language abilities to be what I call “kitchen Japanese,” i.e., “somewhat able to audibly understand, but speaking is not her thing” (nigate). Yes, the media has dutifully noted her love for Japanese anime, manga, unagi (eel) and sushi. But “liking things” does not make up for lacking an important skill set.
Even with a Japanese mother, without standalone abilities to communicate and control her own fate, Osaka will expend a lot of energy navigating adult Japanese society, with all of its tripwires of courtesy and protocol.
So, the Nissin ad is the first clear tripwire — she didn’t even get consulted on her own image. And she got Whitewashed like a number of other celebrities in Japan of mixed heritage who can’t be accepted as “Japanese” unless they “look like Japanese”.
Consider what happened to singer Crystal Kay (who is Afro-Zainichi Korean, but it’s the same phenomenon). Excerpted from a chapter I wrote for book The Melanin Millennium (2013):
A more subtle example of the marketing of skin color can be witnessed in the evolution of Japanese pop idol Crystal Kay (1986- ). The child of an African-American military serviceman and a Japan special permanent resident (zainichi) South Korean mother, Kay was raised as an English-Japanese bilingual in Japan (Poole 2009). Beginning her career from age thirteen, Kay as of this writing has released nine studio albums, with an appreciable lightening of her skin on her album covers as her popularity in Japan increased. A sample from earliest to latest:
C.L.L. Crystal Lover Light (2000), her debut album.
Almost Seventeen (2002)
Natural (2003), despite the similarities, is a separate album from 4Realwith different tracks, remixes, and English covers.
Call me Miss… (2006)
All Yours (2007)
Color Change! (2008)
Spin the Music (2010)
Best of Crystal Kay (2009)
ONE (Single, from Color Change!, alternative Pokemon edition) (2008)
So, you think Ms. Osaka is going to be immune from this Whitewashing? She already isn’t. If she’s not happy about this sort of thing, she’s going to have to take active measures to prevent it. Or not. But the default visual standard of “Japaneseness” is already out there. And it’s not (yet) her skin color. Dr. Debito Arudou
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40 comments on ““Nippon Claimed” multiethnic tennis star Osaka Naomi gets “whitewashed” by her sponsor. Without consulting her. Compare with singer Crystal Kay.”
The thing about this is, though, will Naomi make any claim about it? It always seems to me these mixed people never speak out against racism from Japanese or just seem to make excuses for it, like its no big deal, while embracing their Japanese half
Ahh, but Miss. Osaka isn’t even ‘half’ (ハーフー) right now, is she? All week the TV News has been calling her ‘Japanese’ (Nihonjin) and she just won a tournament today, so they even call her ‘Nipponjin’!
Lived in Japan for 3 years, can’t really understand or speak Japanese…
Meanwhile, my teenage daughters who lived here all their lives and speak perfect Japanese get labeled as ‘half’ every goddam day.
I had to laugh when I read this;
Look at the headline! ‘Tennis fans in Japan and (!) Abe’! What’s with this urge to insert him into every damn piece of good news? It’s like they’re trying to build a N. Korea style personality cult!
In the article;
‘Prime Minister Shinzo Abe led his nation’s congratulations, hailing an “impressive victory in a very tight game”.
“I’m so proud of the birth of the new world queen,” tweeted Abe.’
Did he? Did he lead his (his?) nation? He didn’t get in touch with anyone I know about it. And why is it ‘his’ nation, and not ‘her’ nation congratulating her for winning?
Proud of a ‘world queen’, but deeply resisting a Japanese Empress. Oh the irony.
I bet he doesn’t even write his own tweets! After all, this is the man who stood up in the Diet and said ‘Yes. Yes, I always pay my Facebook membership fees’, not knowing that FB is free (unless he’s got a business account and is paying to promote content, which would be worth disclosing, don’t you think?).
This comment applies equally to this thread, and the thread about the undue influence the Japanese right-wing is exerting on the English language Japanese press in order to act as a propaganda tool of the state.
I don’t know about Tweets, but he doesn’t write his own speeches, as is evidenced by him reading 云々 as でんでん while delivering a speech. It’s not his own words, so he can’t read it correctly.
— For the record, most politicians at this level have speechwriters.
— Parody: “Japanese Half Of Naomi Osaka Wins Australian Open”
“Thank emperor her Japanese half took over late in the third set and worked overtime to finish the job,” said one Japanese fan on Twitter.
Ha – nice one, here’s one more:
Wow, “the rising wasabi” is a really interesting and entertaining website.
Its both funny and very sad at the same time knowing how ignorant Japanese can be and how many Japanese seem to struggle so hard to understand anything that doesn’t fit their own view.
That one article where Japanese ask if NJ countries have seasons says quite a lot about the Japanese psych.
I thought the question was a joke…… until I read the comments that is, to find that this is based on a true story.
Japanese people has always been world renowned for being highly literate and educated. Not to mention that turning a country from a feudal society into a modern industrialized society in just decades time was no easy task.
So, given all the achievements of Japan, I am still a little baffled as to how they can struggle so much with common sense. This probably has everything to do with Japan’s education system that teaches students almost exclusively how to memorize and not think or question what they are taught to memorize.
While I am no psych or neuro expert, I wonder if there is a biological rule that critical thinking and thinking outside the box MUST be taught by a certain age, otherwise its hard to explain why a well educated adult would struggle with basic information.
Bayfield, usually I’d agree with you, but how can I in the face of this news posted in Japan Today;
The Japanese are the most intelligent people in the world, apparently. Headline should read ‘Japanese most susceptible to flattery’, I think.
“I am smarter than you because some of my fellow citizens got Nobel prizes”
Bringing this back on topic, I wonder if Naomi is also allowed to be smarter than me…
Or, like dolphins (oh the irony), their intelligence is mainly devoted to navigating the challenges of their environment successfully. Having just been sternly lectured by a smart J businessman on the intricacies and numerous “don’ts” how to write a Japanese business card-which my Japanese teacher wrongly instructed me on- it certainly would appear so.
The Four Seasons question, after pondering this for decades, I think it comes from Japanese who only have visited other SE Asian countries like Singapore, which only have two seasons. So they are trumpeting the point that Japan is the Asian Country that has Four Unique Seasons, unlike all those other Asian countries in the south(?)
Not to get off-topic, but this ‘four seasons’ thing came up on Debito.org some years ago, and someone more knowledgeable than I researched this obsession back to the Meiji era, and concluded it was a ‘we Japanese are like Europeans, not Asians’ kind of statement, meant (along with a raft of other mumbo jumbo) to justify and reassure Japanese about their perceived place in the world.
Not so, Koreans also harp on about their country’s uniqueness because it’s the only country that has four distinct seasons.
There’s something much darker than plain ignorance about this four seasons dribble. Japanese visit Korea more than any other Asian country,
— Before others get to it, here’s another article of note on this issue:
How Japanese is Naomi Osaka?
BY KUNI MIYAKE, JAPAN TIMES, JAN 28, 2019
Kuni Miyake is president of the Foreign Policy Institute and research director at Canon Institute for Global Studies.
I replied below it:
What a confused little article. Let’s play rhetorical Bingo:
Discount xenophobia in Japan with the standard “Whataboutism”. (What about other xenophobia in other countries? The Middle East! Europe! Even America!) Let’s minimize and draw attention away from what’s happening in Japan with inapt comparisons. Check that box.
Sit on the fence about whether Osaka Naomi is a “real Japanese” by making it sound as if she’s Japanese in demeanor (rather than by birthright and citizenship, regardless) but kinda not in other ways. Add those asterisks to make her status open to interpretation by the self-proclaimed Wajin Identity Police. Check.
Dismiss the critics of Japan’s “xenophobia” (complete with scare quotes) by calling them “expat pundits living in Japan” (as opposed to “residents”; the word “expat” has a distinctly temporary feeling of “living here on a special status”, cf. “expat packages”). As if NJ residents should have their voices discounted when talking about how discrimination affects them. (So much for the conclusion of “let them play their role in our community”.) Check.
Bring in a tinge of fear by noting how Japanese are “minorities” in certain sectors of Japan. Check.
Then undermine your entire point with the perpetual caveat that “Japan is not a country of immigration”. (Bang goes the “already multicultural nation of Japan” in the conclusion.) Reinforce the monocultural, monoethnic canards. Check.
Oh, and throw in the (correct) point that Japan should have dual citizenship. Not for the individual’s sake, mind you, so they don’t have to endure the identity sacrifice of being forced to choose a side of an artificial binary. But rather because it’s good for the kokutai. More laurels of superiority for all of us Japanese and all that. Check.
I think we have a Bingo and then some.
All of this cognitive dissonance makes for, as I said, a confused little article. If it is an example of how “Japan is learning lessons” (especially as the author is a trained expat diplomat from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), it doesn’t pass the muster of basic critical thinking.
It’s a shocking article full of line by line racism, whattaboutism, and logical fallacy. You are right to call him out.
What’s shocking is not that the Japan Times in its rightwing revisionist swing published such racist tripe, but that the author is a 20+ year veteran diplomat; no wonder Japan is a joke on the world stage.
Japan a joke? Stop laughing, shut up! We are the most advanced country in this field!
Yes, we are going to reuse this quote of Japanese Ambassador Hideaki Ueda at the U.N. torture committee for a looong time.
N.b. leading country in torture? Is that what he means?
Seriously, I think critical thinking is not the faculty of Japanese ‘globalist’ elites in the first place. Regarding the magnitude of caveat and paradox in inconsist statements, it’s obvious that this piece is originally written in Japanese, and has his aide or secretary translate into plain English. This is not something that can be treated as common errors Japanese make in English essays. This is a level-5 caveat that needs to be taken seriously. If this is what Japanese government visualizes as an exclusive model of Japanese with English abilities(or gaijin handler) through the adventure of ongoing English Education reform, I am seeing the tail end of internationalism/globalism in Japan if not its entire demise.
“a “real Japanese” by making it sound as if she’s Japanese in demeanor”
So, is Miyake a “real” Japanese? or Ishihara Shintaro? Or Sakurai? I mean, these three seem a bit “rude” and “direct”, surely not “real” Japanese traits at all?
Had a former Japanese American colleague call my Japanese boss “not a real Japanese” because he didn’t think my boss getting angry with him for poor sales was what a “real” Japanese would do.
The most ironic though, was this dodgy Aussie music agency called DagMusic (sic), which doesn’t have written contracts with NJs as “that is not the Japanese way”. Excuse me? Are you Japanese?
Lighten up, people. There are many kinds of Japanese. And should be more varieties.
Excellent response Debito and it so hit the spot. The shocking aspect of the article written by Miyake – although, after 25 years in Japan, it’s not so shocking – is the child like reasoning / excuses of the author, who is meant to be a member of the Japanese political elites. He exemplifies why Japan on the international negotiation stage, whether it’s the Northern Territories, North Korean abductees, whaling or the comfort women issue, do so badly. His reasoning is more deserving of the semi-literate stranger on the adjoining bar stool, who’s had one beer too many, than a member of the Japanese political elite who graduated from Todai.
“the semi-literate stranger on the adjoining bar stool, who’s had one beer too many, than a member of the Japanese political elite who graduated from Todai.”
I see them as the same person, i.e. J-political (privileged) elite = barfly logic. Think Bullingdon Club in the UK “wealthy members, grand banquets, boisterous rituals and destructive behaviour, such as the vandalising (“trashing”) of restaurants and students’ rooms. Many local outlets refuse to host these events.” “The club has attracted controversy, as some members have gone on to become part of Britain’s political establishment. These include the former Prime Minister David Cameron, former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson,”
They think that graduating from somewhere like Todai is the ultimate attainment of knowledge. They think that there is nothing they don’t understand. They don’t need ‘experts’ to guide them on policy decisions, and a society of vertical hierarchies both endorses and reinforces their misplaced belief in their own supremacy.
Just like this guy, who thinks he’s within his rights to call for businesses and homes to be ‘burned down’ on his say so (almost 18 months ago);
In other countries led by idiots who lack self-awareness, you can rely on the press to act in calling them out, exposing them, holding them to account and informing the masses.
Unfortunately, due to the advertising revenue that Dentsu holds over the medias heads, the Japanese news media is too frightened to call these people out.
I notice that the media hasn’t covered the government data scandal that broke a couple of weeks ago. It calls into question all government data from economic indicators to Abe’s approval ratings.
This is important because the bank of Japan is making policy decisions based on fudged data; no wonder it consistently fails to meet it own targets.
And since the LDP membership quickly turn on leaders with low approval ratings, it seems that Abe may be pulling a fast one on his own party by fudging his own approval rating data.
So far the regime has been able, via its relationship with Dentsu and others, to keep this out of the press, but with the opening of the Diet session, I expect opposition parties to make a meal of it.
“Todai? Never heard of it” – 99% of the world. Another J bubble burst.
though I note an obscure Chinese university is now at #22. Oh, the irony….
Crystal Kay “Color Change! (2008)” ahem, what’s the concept there? I note it was partly produced by Jam and Lewis, but there is no title track and the other titles seem innocuous enough fluff, but the cover makes her look…nothing like Crystal Kay!
Nissan is desperately trying to show they’re not rscist by featuring Naomi Osaka in their new ad. No wait, she’s ‘Japanese’, and this isn’t a ploy to make them look less racist for throwing Ghosn under the bus? Frankly, she should have done her homework and told Nissan where to get off.
You might want to check out what Baye McNeil said about that. His WaPo Op-Ed was out.
He was also on a JT podcast Deep Dive. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/podcast/episode-6-week-naomi-osaka/
And you’re right. Nisshin lied about their animated featuring of Osaka, saying that they contacted her for permission. They didn’t.
Well, here’s a downside of being ‘Nippon claimed’- forced inclusion in a patriarchy and vertical hierarchies, as men’s tennis player Nishikori has decided he can speak on Osaka’s behalf and give her advice on success, since they are both ‘Japanese’ now, it’s ok because he is;
A) a man, and,
B) older then her.
Only problem is that Osaka is the number one ranked ladies player, whilst Nishikori is 6th ranked male. What experience exactly is he drawing on to advise a world champion about being a world champion? Kinda Japan/mansplaining thing going on.
Oh, hang on!
Japanese ‘comedy’ duo apologize for saying that Miss. Osaka ‘needed some bleach’ because she was ‘too sunburned (suntanned?)’. They didn’t mean to ‘make inappropriate, hurtful remarks’ and are sorry for ‘making the specific person feel uncomfortable’.
Gee! That’s REALLY big of them! They sure are getting their tongues tied in knots trying to apologize for their RACIST REMARKS without using the word racist, aren’t they?
Naomi Osaka: Comedy duo ‘A Masso’ apologise for ‘bleach’ comments
BBC, September 25, 2019
A Japanese comedy duo have apologised after they reportedly said Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka “needed some bleach” during a live event.
Japanese Osaka, 21, won her first Pan Pacific Open title in her hometown Osaka on Sunday – her first trophy since January’s Melbourne win.
The duo, known as ‘A Masso’, also reportedly said “she is too sunburned”.
Their management company, Watanabe Entertainment, says they have been severely warned following the remarks.
Both women apologised for making “inappropriate, hurtful remarks”, though they did not name two-time Grand Slam winner Osaka, who is Haitian-Japanese.
“We sincerely apologise for making the specific person feel uncomfortable, as well as for everyone else connected to the event,” comedian Ai Murakami said.
“We also sincerely apologise for causing trouble. Though we should have thought about it, we made remarks that hurt many people, something we will never do again.”
In January, Japanese noodle company Nissin was accused of “whitewashing” the mixed-race Osaka in a manga drawing.
Former world number one Osaka was born in Japan before moving to the United States when she was young.
I’d like to see these funny guys make a joke about Shinzo’s weak bowels, or Aso’s kanji illiteracy and see how long their career lasts.
Not a chance, picking on easy targets, and hiding behind ‘culture’ and being ‘misunderstood’ because the victim is powerless.
Naomi Osaka ‘laughs off’ bleach comments;
N.B. She doesn’t laugh off ‘racist’ comments, she ‘pokes fun at bleach comments’.
I guess she’s not allowed to make a scene by calling out Japanese racism in case it upsets the ‘wa’ and her Japanese sponsors don’t like it. She has to take the racist insults with a smile now.
I wonder if her manager told her that she misunderstood’ and that it was ‘confusion’, or if he told her the truth; racism and bullying are pillars of Japanese society?
American tennis players don’t have to accept racism from American comedians…
Naomi Osaka pokes fun at Japan comedians’ ‘bleach’ comments
Japan Today, Sept 30, 2019 6 Comments
By WANG ZHAO
TOKYO Naomi Osaka poked fun on Sunday at a Japanese comedy duo’s reported comments that the Japanese and Haitian tennis star needed to pick up some “bleach.”
The relatively unknown female comedy pairing “A Masso” reportedly suggested last week Osaka needed “bleach,” and said the 21-year-old former world number one was “too sunburned” during a live performance.
They apologized after the skit referring to Osaka made news.
“‘Too sunburned’ lol that’s wild,” Osaka wrote on Twitter. “I never get sunburned” by using a sunscreen, she added — naming a local brand.
Osaka is the face of several leading Japanese brands, including the carrier ANA, and “Naomi-chan” — as she is affectionately known — was the main attraction at this month’s Pan Pacific Open in Osaka, which she won.
But she has faced controversies over her dual heritage in a nation that has been traditionally racially homogeneous, as well as scrutiny for her imperfect Japanese speaking skills — though others insist it adds to her charm.
In January, her sponsor Nissin Foods, known for its pot noodles, was accused of “whitewashing” for an animated “anime” style advert that depicted Osaka with pale skin.
Nissin Foods said Osaka had approved the advert [She hadn’t. See above. — Ed.] but pulled it after a media firestorm.
© 2019 AFP
This is really interesting. Naomi Osaka has ‘picked’ Japanese citizenship;
But there’s no mention that she has given up her US citizenship and no way to check even if she says she has. The assumption on the part of Japanese reporters (and government) is that because she hasn’t chosen to give up her Japanese citizenship, she has decided to give up her US citizenship. But that’s not a logical deduction.
Maybe she has kept her US citizenship? There is an assumption that she is complying with Japanese law. Also interesting is the idea that she is carrying out administrative steps to ‘obtain Japanese citizenship’.
Really? What’s this? She already HAS Japanese citizenship.
Word-games and assumptions in this article to satisfy Japanese endless desire for affirmation. Yawn.
She’d be doing much more if a service to Japan (and other Japanese/foreign national children) if she had said she wants dual citizenship and would give up her Japanese one if Japan was unwilling to accept it.
I guess she’s just got her nose in the trough now and doesn’t want to rock the boat; doesn’t want to stand up against Japanese racism, doesn’t want to stand up for children of mixed parentage. Sell out. When she stops winning, the Japanese will throw her under the bus.
Reading that back, it looks a little harsh.
I’m sure she just wants to play tennis and not get involved in racism/social issues.
I just want to get on with my life without racism/social issues. And I’m sure all the ‘haafu’ kids in Japan getting othered about their hair color and whatever would like to too. But they aren’t famous, so they don’t have a voice.
Yawn”, indeed. The Yawn Factor is something that needs a separate article- to what extent is Japan’s boring predictability and lack of spontaneity and change killing NJ fascination for Japan and thus leading investment and business elites to more exotic and seemingly dynamic markets? (e.g. China, Vietnam, etc)
I reaised after a couple of years in Japan there is no hidden meaning that westerners crave, things ARE as they seem.
Thus,what appears to be “racism” in Japan is not some “difficult to understand cultural differences of Unique Japan” (yawn) but in fact is the racism it first appeared to be.
The apologists try to obfuscate it into Unscrutability, but in fact it is just as you percieved it to be.
And thus, “Yawn”.
Furthermore, Tokyo’s high Uncertainty Avoidance (Hofstede) and striving “for a life that holds no surprises” (Weber on Rationalization) and the daily script of formailites that social interaction seem to follow, resembling Macdonalds (Ritzer, Macdonaldization, 1993) all contribute to the Yawn Factor.
Looks like Nissin has graduated from whitewashing to “cutewashing”:
Naomi Osaka ‘Cup Noodle’ sponsor Nissin criticized for tweets pushing cuteness over BLM
Once again, no reaction from Osaka herself.
Naomi Osaka ‘Cup Noodle’ sponsor Nissin criticized for tweets pushing cuteness over BLM
September 18, 2020 (Mainichi Japan)
TOKYO — The content of a commercial message featuring tennis player Naomi Osaka by noodle-maker Nissin Food Products Co. has come in for criticism online over its contrast in tone to a Nike ad that also uses the athlete’s image.
While Nike Japan’s message suggested the U.S. Open champion’s activities to support the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement against discrimination of Black people, the Nissin ad emphasizes fashion with a pitch that doesn’t suggest any particular societal message. The Mainichi Shimbun took a look into what it was that came to be seen as problematic.
Nike Japan pinned a tweet on its official account on Sept. 13 congratulating Osaka after her second U.S. Open win. In it, Osaka is seen photographed side-on while standing on a tennis court. Overlaid onto the image is text reading, “This victory is for myself, this battle is for everyone.”
Following a shooting of a Black man by a police officer in Wisconsin at the end of August, Osaka took to stepping onto court for each of her U.S. Open matches while wearing a different black mask with the names of Black people who have been killed in racially-motivated violence. The Nike tweet’s reference to “this battle” appears to refer to the struggle against discrimination.
Conversely, the Nissin tweet, dated Sept. 1 and posted to its official account, begins with text reading, “Finally the grand slam begins! We thought of a number of ways of how best to support Naomi Osaka to win, and we came to the conclusion that it would be a victory if you could get to like her, so we’re putting out some cute information ahead of time. Naomi Osaka, do your best!”
It also includes a picture of Osaka in tennis wear, and above her some copy referring to an area synonymous with Tokyo “kawaii” fashion that says, “I want to go to Harajuku. Naomi.” Next to the picture it also says, “Naomi Osaka loves Harajuku and shows how she always makes things fashionable. Her charm is that she takes parts of current trends and matches them to her style. Whether it’s tennis or fashion, it’s always important to have your own style. By the way, when it comes to Cup Noodles we also keep a sense of what’s popular, and work every day to develop many flavors.”
The responses to Nissin’s message on Twitter have been largely negative. Among the numerous criticisms that have been posted, one read, “You’re trying to praise a world-class top athlete for being ‘cute,’ and not for her play. It’s so rude.” Another wrote, “Can’t you quit treating Naomi Osaka like she’s some cute, silly airhead?” One user sent a message, saying, “I respect Naomi Osaka as a person. It’s not about being ‘cute,’ it’s her humanity I approve of.”
Meanwhile, others wrote, “Nissin’s ad targets consumers in Japan and will likely be shared overwhelmingly by Japanese users. The point is not being cool because an ad is global, but differences in target audiences, isn’t it?” Another message read, “(Nike) knows that announcing its support for Naomi Osaka will lead to profits. It’s better to bear in mind that there are financial calculations.”
But what was Nissin’s aim with its tweet? When the Mainichi contacted the company’s public relations, it responded, “We created the message with the sense that we were supporting Naomi Osaka, but please allow us to refrain from making further comment on the strategy behind the advertisement or the minute details of it.
Additionally, regarding Osaka’s support for BLM, “As for Naomi Osaka’s personal words and actions, we are not in a position to comment, and therefore ask that you allow us to refrain from further comment. While hoping for her success in grand slams to come, as well as next summer’s Olympic Games, our whole company will continue to support her.”
(Japanese original by Fusayo Nomura, Integrated Digital News Center)
Japanese version (excerpt before paywall)
会員限定有料記事 毎日新聞2020年9月17日 18時30分(最終更新 9月17日 18時31分)
Ha. But I wouldn’t call it that.
This comment sums it up;
“Nissin’s ad targets consumers in Japan and will likely be shared overwhelmingly by Japanese users. The point is not being cool because an ad is global, but differences in target audiences, isn’t it?” Another message read, ”
But the reality is this. Look at the translated copy on that Nissin ad;
“Naomi Osaka loves Harajuku and shows how she always makes things fashionable. Her charm is that she takes parts of current trends and matches them to her style. Whether it’s tennis or fashion, it’s always important to have your own style. By the way, when it comes to Cup Noodles we also keep a sense of what’s popular, and work every day to develop many flavors.”
It’s so infantile. You wouldn’t get paid for that anywhere else in the developed world. When the entire J-marketing market is owned by two companies, like everything else in Japan, the lack of professional competition ensures there is no imperative to develop skills and up your game by producing more sophisticated marketing. Indeed, if any new-hire with experience outside the ‘Japan Galapagos bubble’ tried something better, they’d have a vertical line of fax-dependent increasingly older men above them in every managerial position saying ‘but this IS how it’s done because this is what we’ve ALWAYS done because it’s the PROPER way to do it!’
And these guys don’t like people laughing in their faces when they say that, and don’t want to compete against NJ talent that will show them up by knowing better, and so ‘elite’ NJ get marginalized in employment with limited term contracts with no opportunity for advancement.
Japan’s advertising, like its TV, attitudes to women, and ‘comedians’ always makes me feel like postwar Japan discovered 1950’s US culture, ossified it, then forgot it was imported. The original forms moved on in the US leaving the Japanese to think they’ve got something unique.
It’s a kind of like ‘cargo culture’ where the islanders made life-size mock airplanes out of straw and control towers with coconut earphone ‘radios’ because they got ‘goodies’ from airplanes in the 40’s without understanding that copying the form doesn’t bring the ‘cargo’. Copying without understanding.
Seriously, if I took any manzai script back to 1950/60’s and translated it into English, people would think I was trying out for Abbot & Costello or Martin and Lewis.
Powers (Working in Japan, 1990) has a case study example exactly like what you describe here: (if any new-hire with experience outside the ‘Japan Galapagos bubble’ tried something better, they’d have a vertical line of fax-dependent increasingly older men above them in every managerial position saying ‘but this IS how it’s done because this is what we’ve ALWAYS done because it’s the PROPER way to do it!’)
A female American ad exec was hired by Dentsu or similar and started to explain to the client how to market something, and there was a chorus of oyaji coughing, scraping of chairs and apologies on her behalf.
Turned out she was just hired “to warm seats” and ensure the continuation of the smooth relationship, and not suggest anything new or different. And to say “yes client God, whatever you say”
Same old, same old. She soon quit.
The cynical part of me suspects they just wanted to hire a blonde for sexy/sexist reasons and to appear international. “Appear”. They still wanted a Japanese brain in that western body, ie. someone who would just agree with the client, go drinking with them, and maybe sneak in a suggestion once the client had known them for a year or so.
Hence the ossified decision making and glacial rate of change.
Speaking of which, your point about how Japan imported US culture after the war and ossified it and then thought it was their own culture speaks volumes about post war Japan as a “brand”, not the real Japan, and touches on my recent discovery that “Tatemae” is a postwar invention.
I am now thinking it might even be a reaction to or even an interpretation of, American mores during the occupation.
Sounds intriguing, please tell me more.
Despite all the wishful thinking by non Japanese, Naomi Osaka is not accepted as being Japanese by most of the Japanese I’ve talked to.
If you read Japanese websites espcially ones that reflect general public opinion of just about all ages, she is seen as a foreigner.
Some of the Japanese I’ve talked to do not have any conscious racist intent when they say ‘Oh but her father is Haitian and she grew up in the USA. That hardly qualities her to be called Japanese although she has the citizesnhip.’
They are making a judement here based on what is normal in Japanese society, not the views of the few and it is very few here, who don’t have misconceptions and biases about ethnicity.
Even so called ‘progressives’ in Japan often believe that Japanese people are ‘one race’, they almost automatically reject the genetic and historical realities of waves of immigration of people from what is now Mongolia, China, Korea and South-East Asia.
Naomi could talk about racism in Japan and the issues connected with its reality here but if you look at her public opinions on social media for a start, she lacks the courage and maturity to deal with it in a way that could start a good discussion and not necessarily lose sponsorship.
Naomi’s ‘just because it isn’t happening to you doesn’t mean it isn’t happening’ is absolutely correct but this reality doesn’t suddenly disappear when it comes to Japan and Japanese society. Unfortunately her attitude seems to be that when it comes to Japan.
If she hadn’t talked and written about a supposed ‘few bad apples’ then we could give her the benefit of the doubt. She doesn’t have as much to lose in the way as money from Japanese sponsors as she seems to fear. Not being accepted as Japanese in the sense that Japanese think actually gives her more freedom.
Naomi Osaka is still young but her American upbringing has given her the oppprtunities to get huge money while voicing her own opinions, and support as a minority woman for those views. BLM is not some fringe group anymore – it is a huge movement funded by sponsors of all kinds and has huge corporate support .
The real test for her is how she deals with representing a country where people who look like her are told in their everyday life they are not equal to those who have a similar physical appearanceb and call themselves Japanese.
Where a minority who wish to commemorate the slaughter of their people, Koreans, in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake are told they can’t by the Governor of Tokyo Yurika Koike unless they agree to not upset hateful, right wing extremists of the kind that murdered the Koreans after the earthquake.
Ignorance can be overcome if you want to do so, Naomi.
Even so called ‘progressives’ in Japan often believe that Japanese people are ‘one race’,
So was Churchill. He held similar views and was regarded as progressive for his day…in the 1940s!
So, Japanese progressives really need to escape that ossified postwar Japan culture of 70-80 years ago.
They may need to shake off the poastwar zeitgeist imposed on them, but certainly not in the way Abe intended before his colon objected.
While not doubting Osaka’s Japaneseness, in many ways she is less Japanese than I am. I have lived here for most of my life, speak the language, am familiar with customs and culture, and have strong roots in the community.